AiThority Interview with Sebastien Pare, President and CEO at VIQ
Know My Company
How do you interact with AI and other intelligent technologies that you work with, in your daily life?
In our industry, AI is at a stage where it permeates every aspect of our current workflow how we listen and advise our highly regulated security-centric clients on their opportunities to do more with the extensive, rich and complex set of evidentiary data they record, manage, analyze and transform.
There are countless AI tools and technologies that begin by looking for something clever to do with the data that happens to be lying around, hoping to justify their existence. In contrast, my approach, and VIQ’s, to AI is to work backward from the current needs of the clients we serve and how we can use AI to satisfy those needs. AI technology has to evolve from a very specialized and niche tool to a more mainstream tool, and I believe VIQ has the ingredients for such transformation.
On an individual level, AI has been a part of all of our lives for several years. Behind the scenes, AI is about the depth and richness of an increasingly large amount of content. AI linked to lengthy, sophisticated recordings or transcripts enable “smart” digital assistants to open new possibilities for the recording and transcription industry and this is especially true in law enforcement, insurance, legal and judicial markets.
VIQ uses AI to enhance decision-making and accuracy and to maximize the efficiency of our clients and their processes. Our AI capabilities are integral to protecting the value of the audio and video data being recorded, managed, stored and transcribed by our highly regulated and security-centric clients. At VIQ, AI is about assisting our clients to improve the usability and accessibility of the ever-increasing set of rich and complex evidentiary content they manage and secure and assist them in obtaining more from the data they capture, manage and mine.
How did you start in this space? What inspired you to join VIQ?
Digital transformation AI is a journey and not a destination. Every day, we remind ourselves of that reality and advise our international clients and refine our products and services teams accordingly. Advancing process automation has been part of my professional DNA for over 20 years. My digital career began in 1990 when Decision-Making, Accuracy, and Speed of Data Processing was revolutionized with the introduction of new digital technologies like Hypertext, enabling data, government, and clients to access, share and leverage data more effectively. I dedicated the first 15 years of my career to assisting highly regulated government agencies around North America on how to best augment their decision-making and accuracy based on the data collected or accessible to them. My passion for workflow and how it enables the digital transformation started with my years in the case management industry, which is now also foundational to VIQ, our offerings, and services and drives the future roadmap for AI.
I started at VIQ five years ago and have worked to ensure that we provide our clients with the best solutions and industry experts to guide them through their digital transformation. Whether it is a police report that must be produced from a 27 minute, multi-speaker recording, an underwriter insurance form that must be filed electronically from a recording taken on a smartphone, or a legal transcript from 8-10 parties interacting for four hours in a criminal court proceeding, recorded digital evidence needs to be safely captured, triaged, transported, managed and transformed into text and actionable content for our clients. In our industry, trusted and ultra-secured evidentiary data is expected to support a wide range of mission-critical business decisions.
Digital evidence is at a fascinating crossroads and VIQ wants to lead the next generation of AI-assisted digital recording and transcription solutions to assist our clients in their transformation journey. AI is not a wish list for our industry, it is a must have to keep pace with the data expansion, which doubles every year. This trend will only continue to accelerate even further with the continued growth of IoT which will make digital recordings prevalent across every digital device.
Could you tell us about VIQ’s capabilities? How will you be diversifying the range of your AI-solutions in the near future?
VIQ provides cyber-secure, AI-driven Digital voice, and video capture technology and transcription services to law enforcement, insurance, courts, legal and transcription service providers around the globe. VIQ enables governments and private organizations to capture, create and manage large volumes of information, preserve the unique value of the spoken word and visuals, and to deliver meaningful data that supports our 1,200 clients in North America, Australia, and EMEA.
For VIQ, AI is part of a continuum of innovation and has been rooted in our development plans for the last 14 years. We do not see AI as a new trend, but rather as a set of more sophisticated tools and engines our clients not only want to but need to, deploy today to deal with the opportunities and challenges they face on a daily basis. Our clients are reaping the benefits of the explosion of evidentiary recordings coming from intelligent hardware devices. However, this comes with incredible challenges, with digital data sets from a myriad of suppliers needing to be secured, authenticated, validated, processed, triaged, approved, and transformed into forms, documents, and transcripts and the associated rising operating costs and manpower needed to manage the end to end workflow.
The focus of VIQ’s first wave of AI technology was to accelerate the time required to transcribe audio and video recordings into usable text in the format specified by our customers. Also, to significantly improve transcription quality and accuracy via corpora, Word lists and customer specific models that matched the speakers. We used a number of innovative methods to achieve the speed and accuracy goals, and in the process fundamentally changed the traditional transcription workflow and the role of humans in that process. The AI tools performed the time-consuming activities of converting recordings to text, but out of the box, AI has problems with industry jargon and semantics. VIQ’s aiAssist transforms the role of transcribers into AI trainers. The human experts use their industry knowledge and experience to correct
AI errors and then train the AI tools to improve accuracy and provide better transcriptions in future recordings. Our clients get better results because the generic and industry AI models are being modified, over time with high volume, to address the unique customer-specific requirements and only VIQ can provide this level of custom modeling.
In its second wave of AI processing, VIQ will be developing AI-assisted recordings and transcripts via knowledge graphs that assemble intelligent connections between people, places, events, things (objects) and time via full semantic recognition and knowledge creation.
Other models connect people with organizations, Criminal Code Hierarchies, with people, locations and events. The combination of nodes and connections is immense, but the knowledge graph allows investigators to focus on any person, place, event, things (objects) across time to reveal the truth from sets of data so large and diverse that conventional tools cannot process meaningful results.
For a single police report, insurance report, investigation interview, or court/hearing session, the aiAssist Knowledge Graph will recognize the actors and spoken parties and their roles in the incident under report. The recognizer will identify places and events that occurred in the recording. When combined with case management systems and industry taxonomies and VIQ developed industry nomenclatures, the knowledge graph starts to build a profile of meaningful connections relevant to a police department or insurance company across their geographic service areas. Thereby answering complex questions that probe who and what is causing different kinds of events across geography and time.
Healthcare is already well underway in that level of analytics and AI-assisted workflow with healthcare specialists interacting in new ways with data. Law enforcement, insurance, legal and the courts will follow and VIQ plans to be the leader enabling these industries to reap the benefits of AI technologies.
In the near future, AI will help customers in various ways to further assist police officers during interrogation interviews, to support insurance adjusters at the time of their field visits and streamline information from multiple witnesses in court cases.
What is aiAssist? How does it help in data security?
aiAssist is VIQ’s next generation multi-tenant workflow and analysis platform. By combining technologies such as AI, Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) with Human Intelligence, aiAssist quickly and accurately creates documentation from multi-channel audio and audio/video. aiAssist enables the seamless collaboration of machine and transcriptionists, through Machine Learning, all in an ultra-secure cloud platform, ensuring customers can produce ready-to-use transcripts within hours, rather than days. aiAssist works off VIQ’s collaborative workflow platform NetScribe and is integrated with VIQ’s proprietary digital recording software, CapturePro, and MobileMicPro. aiAssist also integrates with a wide range of other recording software products and case management used in our markets.
What is the biggest threat to enterprise/critical data in today’s world?
Data security. Government-sponsored data sovereignty rules aim to increase the protection of this critical asset, but it is up to the industry to comply. Rather than treating this as a burden, at VIQ we raise the bar by embracing data protection as a culture and incorporate data security and accountability into every solution we deliver.
How do you see the raging trend of including ‘AI in everything’ impacting businesses?
As I mentioned earlier, and we have said this for years, it is a survival issue and a necessity for our clients, not wishful thinking.
AI tools have been proven to augment human processing by automating labor-intensive processes that lead to greater operational efficiencies. Businesses that ignore these efficiencies will lose competitive capabilities. Advanced AI also generates the opportunity for human ingenuity to improve competitive capabilities by acting on new knowledge created by AI tools. For instance, knowledge graphs produce enhanced fraud detection by surfacing relationships hidden in layers of data, that are invisible to traditional analytics.
For VIQ, it is about anticipating the opportunities and challenges of our clients when it comes to the explosive growth of digital evidence and opportunities to use such data smarter and more cost-effectively.
We approach AI less on the technology aspect and more on the business side, overseeing the digital transformation required by our clients to continue to better serve and enable our clients and stakeholders.
We believe industry suppliers who delay adoption of AI technologies will see their business slowly erode as customers shift their digital recording and associated documentation needs to vendors who help them realize the value of the insight buried deep within their data. Clearly, customers are also embracing a much more secured workflow operated in an ultra-secured CJIS compliant cloud platform for government and initiated the decommissioning of legacy workflows and legacy fragmented systems used today by the majority of digital recording and transcription suppliers.
What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for AI companies in dealing with rising technology prices?
Technology costs are decreasing to the point where processing and data are relatively low cost. However, data complexity is rising. The breadth and depth of AI models with significant research advancements make it more complicated to identify which tools work best for the problem that we want to solve today. There is a shortage of data scientists who can effectively convert research into working solutions.
As a CEO, I believe that of the companies integrating AI into their respective offerings, the ones that will continue to flourish, are those that can anchor their technology and service into a long-term pricing model where margins are high enough and reasonably sustainable to ensure the company can continue to reinvest into its AI and cybersecurity services.
Our clients expect us to maintain the highest level of security and regulatory compliance, and that comes at a minimum cost. Too many companies have gone down the path of purely competing for the lowest possible prices. While it could work short term, the ability to maintain technology leadership has a cost that must be carefully managed and made very transparent to the clients who rely on us for the best possible compliance and productivity. We are in the business of securing and transforming the most highly confidential evidence there is in law enforcement, courts, insurance, and legal government agencies around the world and such trust in the marketplace comes with a price. We are not the cheapest supplier, nor do we want to become one. The alternative is a race to the bottom where companies’ offerings become a pure commodity with very little that differentiates company A from company B.
VIQ has a hybrid ecosystem of recurring revenue from software – third-party best of breed hardware and transcription services – which enables us to be quite agile in our AI development and how we fund it. Our recent technology developments in the last three years speak volumes in terms of our commitment to our vision for our clients, shareholders and employees and partners internationally.
How do you gain information on Artificial Intelligence and related topics?
AI and related topics have been part of VIQ’s DNA for years. We consume information on AI by spending time with clients and their partners, focusing our attention on not only what is needed today in their digital automation roadmap, but also identifying the bottlenecks where automation breaks down in terms of cybersecurity, effectiveness, costs, human labor and accuracy.
Our clients are the experts in connecting the dots between technology, data, operating costs and time to manage a recording and transcript. This is our main channel to stay ahead, as it is our job to anticipate and help our clients to do more with their resources. VIQ has a very active innovation council which is made of employees and experts who are connected with clients and technology partners at all times.
Where do you see AI/Machine Learning and other smart technologies heading beyond 2025?
At VIQ, we say that our clients are rightfully, and understandably, a minimum of five years behind consumer and retail trends, such as the adoption of the Cloud, electronic payment, voice recognition, and interoperability. This “delayed adoption” has served our clients well over the years as they are the custodians of very secure and highly confidential evidentiary data that must be carefully protected. VIQ clients, who handle very sensitive and highly confidential evidentiary data and documents, are just breaking the surface on their next round of digital transformation.
By 2025, Cloud adoption will be commonplace among our clients and an increasing percentage of them will have laid the foundation for the first generation of industry-specific AI assisted recording and transcription. This will ultimately help experts handle the high volume and processing time needed to produce, at a minimum, a solid and accurate transcript from multi-speaker recordings via machine and extrapolate more automatically. We expect that by 2025, more than 50% of the multi-speaker recording volume in our markets will be tied to some form of AI-based processing.
Beyond 2025, the next round of AI will make its way into our customer base. Knowledge graphs where things, places, descriptions, events, and people referenced in evidentiary data will be available to experts who spend considerable time analyzing data points searching for associations, more relevant facts and correlations between transcripts and evidence. Law enforcement, insurance, legal and court professionals will increasingly begin to rely on AI-assisted protocols in their decision-making processes.
What AI start-ups and labs are you keenly following?
I personally follow many and across a wide range of sectors. I have a particular interest in digital transformation, cognitive technologies, deep learning, sentiment analysis, object tracking, and human-to-machine collaboration centered on digital multi-channel recording and transcription.
They are not a start-up, but I keenly follow Courtroom Animation. Similar to the production of high accuracy transcripts from large complex sets of audio and video evidentiary data coming in from a wide range of recording devices and recording software, they consume a massive amount of evidence and produce incredible highly accurate visuals out of the evidentiary data that we help our customers to capture, manage and transform. I think they are a very complementary technology and we both deploy AI to generate highly accurate visuals to assist our clients.
What technologies within AI and Computing are you interested in?
We are interested in expanding our investment in AI and Machine Learning with the goal of monetizing undetected relationships between certain aspects of the narrative such as intent, causality, and unexpected outcomes. This is required in order to enable our clients to obtain smarter business outcomes from their recordings and transcriptions and to drive the AI-assisted recording and documentation in the future. In the near future, our AI roadmap will have incorporated a range of classifier and entity recognition tools which are increasingly becoming available to our customers via highly secured channels. Similar to healthcare, VIQ plans to drive such adoptions for its unique markets.
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
Newsletters are one of the best ways to stay up to date with what is going on in the industry. However, if you’re like me and subscribe to numerous newsletters, they can overload your inbox and sometimes get buried, so I’ve started using Unroll.me to put all my newsletters in one place. They also have a great app to use on your phone on the subway in the mornings.
What would have been your alternate career choice if you were not working in technology?
I began my career as a regulatory expert assisting government agencies with decision-making. Within three years, I was working on the technology side and addressing the need to connect vast amounts of data, workflow, and users together against policies. I never looked back as I was dedicated to a career in process automation combining data, computing technology and human capital to improve operational performance and decision making.
If I didn’t transition to the technology side of the business, however, I would have continued to advise and consult within government agencies. I have no regrets related to my career choice. Today I am able to have a direct impact on how the industry gathers and consumes highly confidential information. Creating real value, bringing tangible technology offerings to market like case management, digital recording, and transcription for clients across the globe. For me, digital transformation via AI is not a destination, it is a journey and I honestly enjoy it as much today as I did on my first day 25 years ago.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.
Thank you, Sebastien! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Sebastien Paré is the President and CEO of VIQ where he uses his 25 years of experience in digital content and secure enterprise workflow strategy to lead his world-class leadership team in the modernization of technology infrastructure for government and private organizations in North America, Australia and EMEA. Previously, he served as the President and COO of CSDC Systems, a digital compliance SaaS technology platform where he led growth through organic, acquisitions and new technologies.
VIQ Solutions is a global expert in video capture software and audio recording with voice-to-text capabilities. VIQ provides a cyber-secure AI technology and service platform to law enforcement, immigration, medical, legal, insurance, courts, and transcription service providers, enabling them to unlock the value of their enterprise digital media and streamline their document-creation workflow, using artificial intelligence tools for measurable business gains.